posted this review on Amazon, but I thought that it wouldn’t hurt posting it
here too with the hope it might reach a few more people. I really loved this
book! I had acquired it earlier, when I only had Kindle for PC, but it was the
first book I read now on my not-even-a-week-old Kindle Paperwhite. Too bad
Kindle doesn’t show the colours. I love the cover art, by the very talented
Lana Gramlich. In colour or in black and white, this photo gives me an eerie
feeling that’s perfect for the stories.
this aptly titled collection, Charles Gramlich has gathered fifteen very short
stories. In them, there are ghosts, aliens, planets, spaceships, or just human
beings whose bizarre behaviour or circumstances warrant them a place in this
anthology of the weird.
of the fifteen stories, some are lyrical, some are humorous, some are tinged
with sadness, most are disturbing, one was downright scary, and all of them
have a delightful twist in the end. As a bonus, in the end we get a bit of
history about the author’s early literary influences and a bit of history about
each piece – this is a part I enjoyed just as much as reading the stories
Flash fiction is not easy to write, but Mr. Gramlich is a master storyteller and I very highly recommend this collection.
bit more than six years ago, I was reading an article about some famous blogs
that had turned into book deals and thought Hmmm...
of them was Girl with a One-Track Mind, the other one Wife in the North. There were others too. I didn’t think I could find something constantly interesting
to write about, in my life or in the place where I live, nor have the stamina
to do it daily, but the idea of writing a bit of my soul and let it float away
on a tiny paper (or rather, electronic) boat on the river of the World Wide
Web, felt kind of exciting. Scary, but exciting.
exactly six years ago today, I took the plunge. (Or maybe the first shaky
link from Wife in the North had taken me to the Inner Minx, the blog of Minx,
aka Kate Bousfield, author of “Coven of One.” Minx was just blogging
about some lions (not just any lions, but lions of Lyon)
up for adoption at Seamus Kearney’s site. Go take a look, they’re still there
and they are beautiful!
is an Irishman from New Zealand
living and working as a journalist in France. Also a short-story writer,
novelist, musician, blogger…)
could “adopt” a lion, name him, write a short poem or text about him, and
become a member of the group of writers called The Shameless Lions WritingCircle, initiated by Seamus. Got it? Seamus – Shameless :-)
the time, Seamus believed –I’m sure that he still does- that powerful writing
can be found in many places on the internet. The Circle and the award “A Roar
for Powerful Words” were developed by him to put forth that belief and to
encourage writers to roar. I completely agree with this.
chose my lion, which you can see on the right side bar of my blog (yes, go
lower, much lower), wrote my poem, actually I wrote two because the first one
was too long (also on the side bar, below Alexander’s photo) and Seamus very gracefully
accepted me into the Shameless Lions
is how I met a bunch of great people. Some have since retired from blogging,
some have become successfully published authors, a few are still going on.
guess I’m one of those still going on…
Shameless Lions Writing Circle was the first leap for me. The second was The Clarity of Night. In fact, it was Minx again who suggested to me I should check
it out. I’m
so glad I did.
Jason Evans’s blog, the beauty of his writings, and the high
quality contests that he held on his blog have all meant tremendously to me. The
blogosphere is certainly poorer without them. I surely miss them. But although
Jason’s isn’t an active blog anymore, the goodies are still all there, just a few clicks away.
is, in a way, mind-boggling to see how paths open one from another, taking you
to wonderful places where you can meet wonderful, incredibly talented,
like-minded people, and how unbelievably enriching this experience, this
communion can be. Not to mention the exceptional quality of the poetry, prose,
photography, etc. –art in one word- that these people are posting on their
accessing the park from the elevator at 16th Street, behind Chelsea
Market, we looked south to get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty (here with
quite a bit of zooming) before heading north. (Note: Start at Gansevoort Street, to see everything...)
how peaceful it feels to walk the only path of this long park, so close, yet so
miraculously isolated from the mad bustle of the city.
was late by one month in New York,
but any bit of greenery and any tiny flower
look amazing after enduring this year’s winter.
the way, you might encounter…
sweet denizens of the park…
art of nature…
and some more
The end at 30th Street... but an extension of the park is under
the Big Apple, the City that Never Sleeps, the Melting Pot, the Empire City... I
can hear it calling to me again... So next week I’ll be walking its streets, still
in awe, still in love with it all... looking forward to getting infused with
some of its enthusiasm... I’ll see you in a week. Happy Easter to all who celebrate it! Be good!
It was in Venice where I first noticed him, in the
noisy crowd gathered around a fire juggler. A tall, slim man, in an unusual Plague
Doctor mask, red adorned with gold, golden hair cropped short, no brim hat, no
long overcoat. Just red nobleman clothes from another time. Renaissance,
perhaps. Sheets of fire danced over the dark, stale water of the canaletto, cries and foolish laughter mixing
with Vivaldi’s violins. He stood among the crowd, and yet apart. The gold on
his clothes seemed real. The fire and his red cape reflected in his eyes. He
watched me, as if he could see more than my eyes behind my brilliant larva mask, underneath my elaborate dress.
As if he knew why I sought the night mostly. As if he could see all of my
He left with a woman. A Columbina dressed in green. A random
woman, I thought, as I followed them with my eyes, with a pang in my heart, until
they disappeared into a darkened alley. She wasn’t his match, I was.
I looked for him at the airport in Rome, when I was boarding the plane to Rio.
Why would he have been there? But I
could still feel him. Watching me.
Stupid, stupid, I thought, asking
for another glass of champagne, listening to Alessandro Marcello’s oboes on my
earphones. When I fell asleep, he was in my dream.
I prepared for him. I painted my skin
carefully in gold and green, to match my eyes, my waist-long hair, my scanty
suit, the lavish feathers.
Down in the streets, in the colored
night, I looked for him again, and for the first time I barely took notice of the
wild rhythms of the banda. I danced,
only because the visceral beat allowed for nothing else. The floats, the
glistening bodies, the cries, the lights, all swirled around me, dizzying. So
many faces, all different, all the same. The surdo was beating right in my ribcage, and it annoyed me.
When I saw him on the other side of
the street, I knew he too had been
looking for me. It couldn’t have been a mere coincidence. It was he, I knew it. Taller than the
crowd, and still standing apart. This time, torso bare, lean muscles moving
under smooth skin painted silver, white linen pants tied with a rope around
narrow hips, gold hair, cropped short, a small, bizarre silver mask that made
me think of a cruel jungle god. His beautiful mouth held the hint of a smile.
His eyes glinted in the light of torches. Blue. Or green.
A group of dancers pushed in between
us, with frantic moves, carrying me with them. He was gone by the time I escaped
Where was he? How much of a
coincidence was our encounter? Was he a Carnival chaser as I was? Was he
I didn’t notice those men until they
were too close. Until their heat, their smell of caipirinha overwhelmed me. Three of them, no,
five. They had bottles in their hands. They had tambourines and bells to keep
the rhythm of the batucada; those
would have covered my cries even if my mouth hadn’t been too dry. The alley became
darker, narrowed by garbage cans. The street with the lights and the dancing seemed
suddenly, impossibly, far away. I had left my knife in the hotel room.
That’s when I screamed. That’s when something else
happened. A blur. A wind.
It was he. I stared at him. We were standing and those men were lying on
the ground around us. There might have been some blood. I swayed, my knees almost
He steadied me, one cool hand digging
into my left arm. His silver mask resembled the Inca Sun god. Maybe he was a god, after all.
For a moment, he looked at me as if
he wanted to say something. But then he was simply gone, swift as lightning.
I didn’t wash my arm that night in
my hotel room. I lied on my side, with the imprint of his hand in the bronze
paint on my skin, and longed for him.
I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Always finished the season in New Orleans.
Where was he? I didn’t see him, didn’t feel
him the whole day. The whole night. Maybe he was still in Rio.
Time to go home. Wait for next
Away from Bourbon Street, people were scarcer; with
the distance, a plaintive tune of jazz was dying slowly, as if that could ever
happen in New Orleans.
It was the sax… the sax always broke my heart.
I didn’t hear his steps, I just saw
him. We stopped, maybe at an arm length from each other.
No masks this time. I knew it was
him. Clad in black, blond hair, face beautiful and savage alike. A prince of
the North. He stood one full head taller than I, and I was tall and wearing the
highest heels. His eyes –I still couldn’t tell if they were blue or green- held
the most unsettling mix of laughter, and promises, and death.
“You were right in Venice,” he said.
“You are my match. I have been
waiting for you. We are both of the night…”
He didn’t try to hide his teeth when
he smiled. His fangs.
But he wasn’t taking. He was asking.
I stepped into his arms.
“Tonight we’ll listen to the music
of your blood,” he whispered on my neck, his breathing cool, soothing. “And
then we’ll have all the nights…”
she played in the garden with her little sister, Gemma had to glimpse at the attic windows every two minutes. There were
four high narrow windows in the eastern wing of the manor, exactly above Gemma’s bedroom. And there was somebody in there.
matter how fast she was, she caught the movement only with the corner of her
eye. Every time she looked directly, there was nothing, only the reflection of
the clouds in the sky or a glint of sunshine. Her sister didn’t see anything,
but then Rosie was only five. But Gemma knew
there was someone… some-thing in
there. Watching her.
the evening, when she tried to fall asleep, she could hear someone walking
above her head, sometimes light, sometimes heavy, sometimes just a thump-thump accompanied by a squeaking
that seemed successively near and far.
Gemma would call Mum.
can’t hear a thing,” Mum would say after a minute of deep silence. “Maybe it’s
the rats.” And when she tucked Gemma in, Mum would add, “Stop reading scary
stories before you go to bed.”
course, Mum would say that. But that was because Mum didn’t know. Mum never
heard the footsteps. It was as if whoever was in the attic knew when Mum was
there and stopped. The moment she was gone, the pacing resumed furiously, as if
in anger, the creaking of the floorboards so heavy sometimes that Gemma was
afraid the ceiling would crack. On those nights, not even two pillows over her
head helped her fall asleep.
nothing in that attic,” Mum said one day, holding Gemma’s chin in her hand, her
eyes worriedly examining her face. “Maybe some old dolls of your Grandmama’s,”
she said smiling, “or some ball dresses of your Grandaunt’s Rebecca…” Gemma knew
that Aunt Rebecca, her grandmother’s older sister had disappeared when she was
eighteen, but nobody found out if she had eloped with one of the handsome
officers or had drowned in the march. Gemma was staying in her old bedroom, the
most beautiful room in the house. “Come, darling, we’ll take a look together.”
clutched Mum’s hand all the way up the dark, narrow, winding flight of stairs
at the end of the corridor. The air was stale yet the flame from the lamp Mum
was holding flickered wildly. Gemma tried not to look at the shadows on the
walls. She tried to think only of the sunny, bright afternoon outside, and of all
the new blooms in the garden. Her heart jumped when she heard Mum exclaim,
is this? I don’t understand…”
door to the attic was boarded with thick wood planks. And for good measure, a
few more had been nailed to the first layer. Mum touched the planks as if still
expecting to have a door there that she could open.
sat on the floor and put her right cheek and ear to the wood, her palms spread
on the dusty smooth surface. The wood smelled of an herb, a sweet, nauseating
smell, or maybe that was just how old wood smelled.
she heard it.
raspy breathing. Waiting. Right behind the boarded door. Gemma knew Mum had
heard it too from Mum’s sharp gasp right before she dropped the lamp. Oil
spilled from it before Mum could pick it up and it caught fire, but Mum stepped
on it quickly, almost setting fire to her skirts.
God,” Mum said, taking a step back. “We could burn up here.” She grabbed
Gemma’s shoulders, pulling her up. A black stain on the wood planks still fumed
where the fire had lived shortly.
the boarded door, something started squeaking.
there someone in there?” Mum said, her voice clear and just a little shaky. The
raised her hand and knocked on the wood planks.
inhuman shriek rose in response and a blast shook the door so hard a few nails
snapped loose. Cold, musty air brushed their faces out of nowhere.
and Mum threw themselves down the stairs, hand in hand, legs catching in their
skirts, in peril of breaking their necks. They only stopped downstairs, in the
hall, with the white marble shining in the afternoon sun.
will sleep with me tonight,” Mum said, holding Gemma tight, kissing the top of
her head, again and again. “Tomorrow Peter will get some boys from the stables
and they will open that door.”
Gemma didn’t think that would be a good idea. She had an idea of her own.
knew what started the fire on the upmost floor of the eastern wing, in Gemma’s
bedroom, but they all stood and watched safely from the garden, in the early
hours of the morning. Luckily, Gemma and Rosie had been with Mum at the time. Or
Gemma most of the time. The valets and the maids stood ready to intervene at
Mum’s orders, but there was little chance the fire would spread below to the
stone structure. The attic though, which, together with the bedroom below, was
a late wooden addition to the old manor,was
watched the dark shadow at the windows, for once not eluding her, illuminated
by the flames, and then she watched the windows explode under the overwhelming
heat. Flames and smoke burst out, but from within them, Gemma saw a darker smoke
emerge, a narrow, twisting, pitch black bundle of smoke, that rose spinning
quickly as if with purpose then disappeared into the pink sunrise sky.
week at Woven Dreams, Geraldine wants us to think about attics…